Women's Basketball Takes "Must-Win" Game Against Defending Champs

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Men’s basketball

The Centennial Conference season is only a third of the way done, but Saturday’s clash with Gettysburg still felt like a must-win for the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team.

Mission accomplished.

Katy Mitton The Mules played like a desperate team and picked up a win they desperately needed, holding off the defending CC champions for a 62-57 victory, their first of the new year. Muhlenberg (6-6, 3-3) had lost six of seven coming in, but put an end to its woes by holding off the Bullets down the stretch in a contest that featured five ties and nine lead changes.

“This win was one of the best since I’ve been here,” said senior co-captain Katy Mitton, who coupled a career-high 10 rebounds with a season-high eight points. “Regular-season wise, it was one of the best games I’ve been a part of. We finally got to the point where we played how we know we can. It felt great to get this win over the reigning CC champions.”

Looking to block out their recent rough patch, it was only fitting that a late block did the trick for the Mules. Trailing 60-57, Gettysburg (7-4, 3-3) had the ball and a chance to pull even in the closing seconds, but senior Leeann Lanza swatted away a potential game-tying three-pointer with 17 seconds left. Mitton corralled the rebound, was fouled and hit one of two free throws to ice Muhlenberg’s most important win of the season.

Junior Leanna Tallamy led all scorers with 23 points for Muhlenberg, which turned in a strong performance against one of the nation’s top defenses. Gettysburg entered the weekend ranked ninth in Division III in field-goal percentage defense (.313) a year after leading the country in that category, but the Mules shot 41 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 22 baskets, keeping the Bullets at arm’s length with solid execution on the offensive end and a stingy defensive effort of their own.

Hannah Rush All it took was a few new wrinkles. The Mules employed a high-low offense, working through Tallamy in the post, and stayed in a 2-3 zone from the opening tip to the final buzzer, frustrating the Bullets into a 31-percent shooting performance, including a 7-for-26 effort from beyond the arc.

“Yesterday Coach put in a new offense, and we were like, great, one more thing to think about,” Mitton (left) said with a laugh. “This high-low stuff has always worked since I’ve been here, and against Gettysburg we just gave it to them. It was nice to see that we stuck with what we had come in with. Before, when something wasn’t going right, we changed it. Today we did exactly what we came to do.”

After a back-and-forth first half in which the lead changed hands seven times, Muhlenberg jumped out to a 41-34 advantage on a layup by Tallamy five minutes into the second period before Gettysburg rattled off a 10-2 run of its own, going ahead for the final time at 44-43 with 12:46 remaining. But the Mules were unfazed.

Sophomore Christina Santone knocked down a jumper on the ensuing possession, giving Muhlenberg the upper hand for good. A three-pointer by junior Abby Stenger made it 54-48 with just over seven minutes to play, and after the Bullets answered with a bucket, the Mules scored the next five points to take a 59-50 lead with three and a half minutes to go.

Gettysburg then went on a 7-0 run, pulling to within two on a steal and layup with 46 seconds remaining, but sophomore Hannah Rush knocked down a free throw and Lanza came up with her crucial block on the other end to help the Mules erase the memory of two disappointing losses to start 2014.

“Hopefully,” Mitton said, “we can keep playing like this for the rest of the year.”

Tallamy finished 8-for-16 from the field and 7-for-10 at the line, and her teammates backed her up with a balanced effort. Senior Erin Laney added 10 points and seven rebounds and Stenger stuffed the stat sheet with seven points, five rebounds and three assists. Santone scored six points to go along with a pair of blocks, while Rush (right) finished with four points and a game-high five assists (to just one turnover) in her second game of the year.
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